WeMeme and interestingness

Ross asks for a meme aggregator that shows him what his social network is looking at. In order for this to be really useful it needs a feature that Amazon had in its apparently now defunct purchasing ciricles. You could look up what people in Austin, or people at Cisco were reading. But the algorithm stripped out the most popular products, and showed the things that people in Austin had distinctively in common. So you wouldn’t see the non-information that a lot of people watch the superbowl, but you would see that a lot of people saw a particular Jon Udell podcast.

Georesearch in realtime

Yesterday, I came home after a bike ride and was able to find answers on the internet to my questions about the wildlife and places I saw on the ride. In 1998, the last time I’d gone out (running) in the same landscape, the information wasn’t on the net yet. It would have taken hours of research and travel to find the same information. The internet is a thing of wonder.
Jon Udell fantasizes about being about to have geo-information available immediately, as you experience the landscape. That would be both cool and horrid. The reason I put a blackberry in the drawer is that it intruded into experience. I’d go for a walk on a sunny day and see email, not trees and flowers.
It’s one thing to see mysterious weathered structures in a marsh, and an odd-looking drawbridge that looks like it rotates sideways, and rush-like plants growing at the side of the water, and observe variations in the color of pools, another thing to learn about the abandoned town, and the man who tended the drawbridge, the ecosystem that depends on those plants, the salt concentrations and microorganisms that influence the color of the water. I didn’t need all that information right while cycling, the salty breeze and the landscape was plenty.
Wordsworth defined poetry as emotion recollected in tranquility. A corrolary — you’re not writing the poem while in the midst of the emotion and sensation. I think it would be great to be able to bookmark a landscape, and come back to learn about it later, and not forget. Being able to look the landscape up later is enough cyborg for me.


Dale at O’Reilly is uncomfortable with a “>citation of Make Magazine in an article on status. The article’s hypothesis is that people acquire craft skills in order to show off and be superior to others. Dale feels that creative people make things to please themselves. Both of these miss a third perspective — creativity as a gift. How often do creative people make something in order to please others? Cooking is surely like that. I’m more motivated to undertake a creative project if there’s someone who will enjoy and appreciate it. It’s about making the other person feel happer, not smaller.

The Root of the Wild Madder

AP Correspondent Brian Murphy fell in love with Persian carpets, and followed the trail of carpets from present-day Iran and Afghanistan back through pre-historic times, in The Root of Wild Madder. The book tells a more human and nuanced story of those parts of the world than one gets by reading the political news these days.

Bay wetlands and YouTube award

Yesterday I went for a bike ride over the Dumbarton bridge, by the Don Edwards wildlife refuge and Coyote Point park. The bike store guy warned me that the ride over the bridge got windy, but it wasn’t bad. I passed only one other cyclist. The ride passed some grim-looking, foul-smelling mud, and some lovely wetlands wtih reeds, flowers, and various birds. I turned to the right past the toll plaza and went partway around the unpaved trail in the park, with lovely view of bay and hills, then turned around, because I wanted to make sure it would be light when I crossed back over 101.
When I got home, I looked the parks up on the internet. There is great blog Hidden Ecologies with biologist Wayne Lanier and Berkeley architect professor Cris Benton, who blog micro-ecosystems and landscapes in the south bay wetlands. Wayne’s site is Hiking with a field microscope Apparently, the bad-smelling mud isn’t toxic waste from the bad old days of waste disposal. Instead, it’s sulfur-based bacteria with metabolism that predates our oxygen-rich atmosphere. His blog has the coolest thing I’ve seen on YouTube — some of the microcritters move. The blogs link to the story of the abandoned settlement of Drawbridge, an unincorporated place along the railroad between San Jose and Newark, whose distance from law enforcement gave it a reputation for illegal entertainment.
Levees that turned marsh into commercial salt ponds are being graduallly removed, returning more of the south bay to wetlands

Crosspost weekend hack

I often want to post the same thought to my colleagues at Socialtext on the intranet, to my personal blog, and to the Socialtext public blog. Most of the time, I post to only one place, because of the extra steps. I’ve long wanted a tool that allowed me to crosspost to the intranet wiki, and various blogs. Oddly, there don’t seem to be available cross-posting tools, even though there are plenty of desktop posting tools.
The new Socialtext REST API provided the means, and SuperHappyDevHouse provided the incentive. I hacked a cross-posting tool that posts simultaneously to my personal blog and Socialtext wikis. The tool can post to a Socialtext wiki from a web form on server or desktop. Since it runs from the desktop, it is also the world’s simplest offline wiki editor.
The first version has a hard-coded blog-wiki pair. The next version will allow the user to enter any number of blogs and wikis, and then choose one or more places to post. Also, I’ll see if I can post to Drupal, which would enable cross-posting to the Socialtext public site.
^^^ Borrowings
The tool uses Socialtext::Resting, the client for the alpha REST API and Net::Blogger, a perl wrapper for various blog apis.
^^^ What didn’t work
Posting to a movable type weblog via XML::Atom. I bailed and am using XML-RPC instead, which is happily posting to blog.

Rashmi Sinha on Designing for Social Sharing

Rashmi Sinha hits the nail on the head. Being social is more about sharing than declaring. Sharing meals, sharing music, sharing gossip and news, sharing activities, all of these kinds of shared experiences are the stuff of social life, beyond the “hello” and the tribal handshake.
Rashmi’s insightful presentation on “Design for Social Sharing” explores the design patterns of “second generation social networks that put objects at the center: tagging, video, news creation”. Design patterns include passing on a cool video, tagging and rating. Social sharing apps combine personal social value. Tagging a link helps me remember it, and helps others find it too. Creating a playlist or group of pictures helps the person who makes the list, and other who come later.
One insightful pattern is sensing the presence of others. The is the magic of recent changes in a medium-sized wiki, where you can have a window into what your colleagues are thinking. The conventional wisdom is that “presense” means synchronous presense — I can see that you are there and I can interrupt you if I want to. Asynchronous presense is differently good, you can see the flow of others’ activities without interrupting.
Rashmi Social Sharing as a “second generation” of social networks, beyond the first-generation of explicit tools like Friendster. I think the generational terms are more about the hype cycle than what’s been going on. While the Friendster fad flared, LiveJournal and Flickr fostered community and fun, and MySpace skyrocketed. Now, the design patterns and the nature of social apps are better understood – it’s not just about saying hello.

Washington Post writes the “fear of wikipedia” article

Sunday’s Washington Post is running a version of the mainstream media “concern troll” article about Wikipedia. Parents and teachers are dismayed that kids are plagiarizing homework assignments from Wikipedia. The answer comes from a new product from AOL, called “Study Buddy”, which, er, contains authorized material for kids to plagiarize from? The answer, of course, that kids are supposed to be learning critical thinking skills. They’re not supposed to be plagiarizing articles from the World Book Encyclopedia either. They are supposed to be learning to look up more than one source.
The article sniffs that “User-created content, such as entries found in Wikipedia, the open-to-most online encyclopedia, comes with varying degrees of trustworthiness.” Of course, and human-created content comes with varying degrees of trustworthiness.

Debra Bowen’s voting system leadership

Wow. Debra Bowen is running for Secretary of State in California, after her term in the state senate. Einsteinia on DailyKos has compiled a long list of Bowen’s legislative accomplishments. Having put in some leather-pump-miles in the Texas Capitol trying to educate legislators about electronic voting, it is just stunning and incredibly gratifying to see a political figure who is so savvy on these issues.
Her achivements include passing bills to use the voter verified paper trail in audits, making sure the audits include absentee and provisional votes, requiring the paper used for the audit trail to be readable for 22 months, requiring a statewide recount policy, enabling citizens to inspect voting systems.
In Texas, we got bipartisan support for a paper trail bill but got shot down because of leadership opposition. Explaining the details — why you need an audit trail, why you actually need to do the audits, why the paper needs to be good, why you need citizen oversight — these were all topics that took a lot of explaining. Meanwhile, Bowen has been leading.
Here’s a selection, a longer list is at the DailyKos link above.
SB 11 – Prohibits a voting equipment manufacturer or vendor or their agents from making campaign contributions to candidates for state or local office. Also precludes the Secretary of State from supporting or opposing candidates or ballot measures. Passed Senate in 2005, killed in Assembly in 2006.
SB 370 – Requires elections officials, when doing the 1% manual count required by law, to use the AVVPAT produced by electronic machines. Signed into law in 2005.
SB 1235 – This is an expansion of last year’s SB 370 (Bowen). The manual count law requires the votes in 1% of the precincts (with some exemptions) selected at random to be counted manually and matched against the results from the electronic tabulator. This bill: 1) Requires all “early voting” center, absentee votes, and provisional votes to be included into this tally; Requires the select the “random” precincts using a randomly generated number method and/or based on regulations drafted by the SOS; 3) Requires the audits to be public; and 4) Requires the results of the audits to be made public. Will be sent to Governor’s desk by 8/31/06.
SB 1519- Requires the SOS to promulgate recount procedures. There is no state law or regulation on how exactly recounts are conducted. Instead, the procedures (they vary by voting system) are laid out in an informal “best practices” manual between the SOS and the counties. This requires the SOS to promulgate official regulations, so everyone (including the public) will know how it’s done. Will be sent to Governor’s desk by 8/31/06.
SB 1725 – Requires counties to “track” absentee ballots so a voter can call in and check to see if their ballot arrived. Will be sent to Governor’s desk by 8/31/06.
SB 1747 – Voting machine inspection. Right now, the law restricts the ability of people to inspect voting machines, limiting it to county central committees who can send in “data processing specialists or engineers.” This bill expands it to every qualified political party, removes the requirement that they be “data processing specialists or engineers,” and permits up to 10 people from a “bonafide collection of citizens.” Pending on Governor’s desk. He must act by 9/30/06.
SB 1760 – Precludes the Secretary of State from certifying any voting system unless the paper ballots and the accessible voter-verified paper audit trail (AVVPAT) retain their integrity and readability for 22 months. That’s how long, under current law, elections officials are required to retain these documents. Also referred to as the “Elephant Gestation Bill,” since 22 months is the gestation period for a baby elephant. Pending on Governor’s desk. He must act by 8/26/06.